Nagpur: The central part of the Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district has become a hotbed of action as security forces and rebel cadres are vying for supremacy in the crucial zone in the heartland of state’s guerrilla movement. A half-dozen encounters in the past few months have only underlined the fact that Naxals and security forces are in no mood to spare even an inch ground to each other. Security forces seem to have gained ground as the Gadchiroli police have opened a number of posts in the central region which was once a rebel stronghold.
The Naxal domination in the region had been such in the past that police and paramilitary forces would avoid the 35 square-kilometer stretch. Threats in the form of landmine and ambushes would often take cops by surprise. The region’s forest zones, mostly uncharted by the security forces till last year, also served as resting and meeting place for the Naxal leadership converging from south and north, and also neighbouring districts of Kanker and Narayanpur of Chattisgarh.
The region was earlier also labelled as the first stepping stone before venturing into the Naxal stronghold of Abujmadh which straddles Chattisgarh and Maharashtra. “The Naxal presence in the central region can be also viewed as their first line of defence before one can cross into Abujmadh,” said Ravindra Kadam, Nagpur IGP, Naxal range. The opening of the police posts, especially at Kotmi, in February this year has lent an edge to the police force.
Apart from a permanent police presence, it also dented the Naxal militia base here among the traditional supporters who had been under the influence of senior Naxal cadres for long. There had been 14 surrenders from Kotmi, including its militia commander, after the post opened at Kotmi. Naxals are now also trying to instill fear among the minds of the tribal by resorting to civilian killings. One of their first target was surrendered militia commander Madhao Podao. Gadchiroli SP Sandip Patil said Naxals are desperately trying to win back domination in the region as it serves as a link to adjoining districts of Chandrapur and also the state of Chhattisgarh. “There is a plan to open more armed outposts and ensure deeper police presence on a permanent basis,” he said.